The NCAA Committee on Infractions (“Committee”) recently issued its findings and found that the University of Connecticut (“UConn”) committed major violations of NCAA legislation. The case resulted from the “extraordinary steps” taken by UConn’s men’s basketball coaching staff to recruit a blue chip prospective student-athlete (“Prospect”) with the involvement of a representative of UConn’s athletic interests (“Representative”). The Representative is an alumnus of the institution who served as a manager for the men’s basketball team during his enrollment at UConn and maintained an ongoing relationship with the men’s basketball coaching staff. The Representative serves as a business advisor for former UConn men’s basketball players and was certified as an athlete agent by the NBA.
The Committee found that UConn committed the following violations of NCAA legislation:
1. Impermissible Telephone Calls and Text Messages in violation of NCAA Bylaws 22.214.171.124-(b), 126.96.36.199, 188.8.131.52.2, 184.108.40.206.6, 220.127.116.11.1, 18.104.22.168
a. Between April 2007 and February 2009, members of the men’s basketball coaching staff violated the provisions of NCAA recruiting legislation by exchanging 150 impermissible phone calls and sending 190 impermissible text messages to prospective student-athletes.
i. From August 9, 2007 to June 13, 2008, the former director of men’s basketball operations received thirty-one (31) phone calls from the Prospect and made 83 phone calls to the Prospect; however, the former director of men’s basketball operations was not a permissible caller under NCAA legislation. Additionally, the former director of men’s basketball operations sent 181 prohibited text messages to the Prospect and one (1) prohibited text message to another prospective student-athlete.
ii. UConn argued the calls related to “routine clerical matters” and, thus, were permissible. The Committee, however, found that the calls made by the former director of men’s basketball operations were not permissible under the “related routine clerical task” language of NCAA Bylaw 22.214.171.124. Subsection (b) of the bylaw states that only members of the coaching staff are allowed to make phone calls to or receive calls from prospects and their families. Therefore, phone calls are by definition something more than “routine clerical tasks” related to recruiting. As such, the former director of men’s basketball operations was not permitted to make calls to the Prospect.
iii. The Committee concluded that 150 impermissible phone calls and 190 impermissible text messages were exchanged between members of UConn’s men’s basketball coaching staff and prospective student-athletes between April 2007 and February 2009. The volume of calls, as well as the duration of time over which they occurred, establish that they were neither inadvertent nor isolated. Further, the number of calls/texts resulted in more than a minimal recruiting advantage over institutions who were abiding by NCAA legislation.
2. Impermissible Inducements in violation of NCAA Bylaws 126.96.36.199, 13.01.4, 13.02.13, 188.8.131.52, 13.2.1, 184.108.40.206-(h), and 13.15.1
a. During 2007 and 2008, the Representative provided the Prospect with impermissible inducements including: 1) the payment of at least some of the expenses associated with the Prospect’s foot surgery; 2) the cost of the Prospect’s enrollment at a basketball academy; 3) the registration fee for the Prospect’s standardized test; and 4) strength, conditioning, and basketball training sessions for the Prospect.
i. During spring of 2008, the Representative arranged for the Prospect to have orthopedic foot surgery at a Florida facility and made two payments totaling $2,155.00 on the prospect’s behalf for the procedure. According to the surgeon, the total cost of the operation totaled approximately $8,000.00-$10,000.00. However, the surgical center directly billed the majority of the costs relating to the surgery and would not confirm who paid for the surgical center costs. Thus, the full amount paid by the Representative could not be determined.
ii. In February 2008, the Representative arranged for the Prospect’s enrollment at a Florida basketball academy and made or arranged payment of $3,500.00 on the Prospect’s behalf for his attendance at the academy.
iii. On May 15, 2008, the Representative made or arranged payment of $65.00 on the Prospect’s behalf to take the SAT.
iv. In summer of 2007, the Representative paid for the prospect’s strength, conditioning and basketball training including four (4) to six (6) training sessions totaling $300.00 to $400.00.
3. Impermissible Inducement in violation of NCAA Bylaw 13.2.1
a. The former director of men’s basketball operations provided the Prospect with an impermissible inducement when he registered the Prospect for the SAT. The former director of men’s basketball operations claimed 1) he was merely checking on the registration and was actually on hold and/or being transferred among SAT employees for most of the time of his call; and 2) the Prospect’s registration for the December 2007 test, which he did not take, was transferred to the May 2008 date, thus there was no need to register the Prospect on February 29, 2008. The Committee found the former director of men’s basketball operations arguments lacked credibility and the evidence supported that the Prospect’s registration concluded at the time the former director of men’s basketball operations call ended.
4. Unethical Conduct in violation of NCAA Bylaw 10.1-(d)
a. On October 14, 2009 and January 19, 2010, the former director of men’s basketball operations failed to deport himself in accordance with the honesty and integrity associated with the administration of intercollegiate athletics as required by NCAA legislation when he provided false and misleading evidence to the NCAA enforcement staff and UConn. The former director of men’s basketball operations provided false and misleading information regarding two (2) issues: 1) indicating he did not know the Representative’s associate despite exchanging sixteen (16) phone calls with the associate; and 2) arguing he was not involved in arranging the SAT examination for the Prospect despite evidence to the contrary.
5. Impermissible Entertainment in violation of NCAA Bylaws 13.2.1 and 13.8.1
a. From 2007 through 2010, members of the men’s basketball staff provided thirty-two (32) impermissible discretionary tickets to individuals responsible for teaching or directing an activity in which a prospective student-athlete was involved, or a friend of a prospective student-athlete.
i. On twelve (12) occasions from January 13, 2007 through January 23, 2010, members of the men’s basketball coaching staff provided a total of twenty-nine (29) tickets and/or admissions not issued through a pass list for away or postseason competition to various individuals who should not have received them. Three (3) other tickets were given away for a home contest; they exceeded the maximum number allowable, two (2), and were not issued through a pass list.
ii. UConn argued that the violations were secondary in nature, but the Committee concluded the violations were not isolated as they involve thirty-two (32) separate violations committed over a three (3) year period.
6. Failure to Promote an Atmosphere for Compliance in violation of NCAA Bylaw 220.127.116.11
a. The head coach failed to promote an atmosphere for compliance in the men’s basketball program and failed to monitor the program to ensure compliance with NCAA legislation regarding phone calls, text messages, and inducements provided by the Representative.
b. The head coach knew the former director of men’s basketball operations was having phone contact with the Prospect and the calls related to recruitment. The Committee stated not only was the head coach aware that the former director of men’s basketball operations was making calls, he also knew or should have known that the former director of men’s basketball operations, as a non-countable coach, was not permitted to have phone contact with prospects.
c. The head coach failed to monitor the former director of men’s basketball operations and other staff members’ phone contacts and keeping track of the contacts made by the staff. The Committee noted the former director of men’s basketball operations failed to keep logs of his phone contacts.
d. The head coach failed to promote an atmosphere for compliance in that he failed to monitor the relationship between Representative and Prospect and/or report the relationship to the athletics administration. UConn’s coaching staff knew of the Prospect’s limited economic resources and knew of the dangers posed by agents, yet they failed to report the relationship between Representative and Prospect (the Committee noted the relationship was fostered by the coaching staff) to athletics administration to determine whether any violations of NCAA legislation occurred.
7. Failure to Monitor in violation of NCAA Constitution 2.8.1
a. Between 2007 and 2009, UConn failed to monitor the conduct and administration of the men’s basketball program in that it failed to (a) review the men’s basketball staff’s phone records to ensure that the staff was not making impermissible phone calls with prospective student-athletes; (b) monitor the conduct of the Representative and his relationship with the Prospect; and (c) review discretionary tickets provided by the men’s basketball staff to ensure that the staff was not violating entertainment restrictions.
8. Allegation of Major Violation Not Found by the Committee
a. The enforcement staff alleged the former assistant coach violated the principles of ethical conduct by providing false and misleading information to the staff in interviews held during the investigation. The Committee concluded that certain portions of the transcript of an interview conducted contained compound and possibly confusing questions and, therefore, the Committee could not conclude that he answered inconsistently or falsely.
As a result of the aforementioned violations, the Committee penalized UConn as follows:
1. Public reprimand and censure.
2. Three years of probation from February 22, 2011 through February 21, 2014.
3. UConn shall reduce by one (1), from thirteen (13) to twelve (12), the permissible number of grants-in-aid in the sport of men’s basketball for 2010-11, 2011-12, and 2012-13.
4. The men’s basketball coaching staff was prohibited from placing any calls to prospective student-athletes for the week of November 22, 2009 through November 28, 2009. Additionally, the men’s basketball coaching staff shall not make recruiting phone calls during the 2011-12 academic year until thirty (30) days after the first date that such calls are allowable.
5. UConn reduced the number of permissible coaches allowed to make telephone calls to prospective student-athletes by one (1), from three (3) to two (2) (not including the head coach), for a six-month period, beginning with the date of UConn’s response to the notice of allegations.
6. UConn shall reduce by forty (40), from one hundred thirty (130) to ninety (90), the permissible number of “recruiting person days” for 2010-11, 2011-12, and 2012-13 recruiting periods.
7. UConn shall have no more than five (5) official visits in men’s basketball for 2011-12 and 2012-13 academic years.
8. The former director of men’s basketball operations received a two (2) year show cause penalty beginning on February 22, 2011 and ending on February 21, 2013.
9. The head coach was suspended from all coaching duties for the first three (3) conference games of 2011-12 season. He shall not be present in the arena where the games are played and shall not have any contact with members of his coaching staff or any men’s basketball student-athletes while the games are ongoing.
10. Information pertaining to the violations committed and penalties provided shall be given to any prospective student-athlete at the time of an official visit or before a prospective student-athlete executes an NLI.
11. The Representative shall be disassociated by UConn for a period of at least five (5) years.